I hear the hon. member say that he will never accept such an appointment. I suggest that it is because this would hurt his true democratic convictions which are held in high esteem by all hon. members.
While listening to him, Mr. Speaker, I suddenly remembered this saying by John Stewart Mills:
On all great subjects much remains to be said.
I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if this saying applies to the matter considered here and which has been studied several times during private members' business period in previous sessions. But the Senate is part of our political institutions and as such deserves to be considered by all those concerned with the continuous betterment of the Canadian democratic process.
The question of the Senate does not trigger any passionate controversy outside the House. I would even suggest that very few Canadians in a whole year care to listen to the debates of the Senate, even if quite relevant questions are sometimes discussed there. "Prologues Without a Play", said Walter Bagehot in his classic on the English constitution, referring to debates of some legislative bodies.
Mr. Speaker, I do not want my remarks to lead to confusion. I recognize wholeheartedly the presence in the Senate of distinguished Canadians. There are men and women who worked in all public and private sectors in Canada, men and women still making valuable contribution to community life in Canada. But their distinction is quite independent of their role as senators. Their contribution to the community precedes their appointment as senators.
Mr. Speaker, although the Senate once played a real part in Canada, serious doubt exists whether it still does today.
In a democracy, power should be exercised by representatives of the people. Such is the case in Canada today. Every time however we vote a piece of legislation in this House, the Senate goes through the unbelievable masquerade of going over it.
Some members may stress the usefulness of Senate investigating committees, and refer to a series of reports some of which were mentioned by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). Those are highly interesting papers stemming from investigations.
That, however, is no sufficient reason for keeping an institution, if it has served its purpose. A series of ways could be devised whereby such investigations could be completed.
But let us go back to sources for a moment. The Special Joint Committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada, known as the Mol-gat-MacGuigan Commission, threw light upon this matter in its final report of 1972. I quote an extract from page 33 of the report:
The Confederation Debates of 1865 prove that there would have been no Confederation in 1867, or at least no Canada as we know it today, if provision had not been made for the Senate. The Maritimes and Quebec were not prepared to join the union if there was to be only one elected House, based on population. Canada would be a federation, and not a unitary state. Consequently, if the Lower House were based on representation by population, there must be an Upper House giving equality to the regions.
Mr. Speaker, who could maintain that such a context remains relevant? The inhabitants of a province have their federal representative in this House and the position of provincial governments has gained so much strength over the years that it would be ridiculous to pretend that the population of a region relies upon its senators for its protection rather than upon its provincial government or its federal representatives.
The Committee on Constitution came to the conclusion, however, that it is necessary to reform the Senate rather than to abolish it.
I fully agree, to quote Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that if the choice is end them or mend them, we ought to end them. If we look to the mother of parliaments in Westminster, we see that the powers of the House of Lords have been severely curtailed.
I do not need to be reminded by members of the Senate of the other useful work they may do. I, too, have read the Canadian literature on the subject and have had the pleasure of seeing the Senate in operation. It seems clear there ought to be clearly established limits on their powers at the very least. On the whole, however, I believe the Senate ought to disappear for either it is a chamber, to paraphrase some of the wording of Sir John A. Macdonald in confederation debates, for registering the decrees of the Commons and therefore of no value, or an independent House having free action of its own, opposing, amending or postponing legislation and therefore, in my mind, an antithesis of democratic rule.
I like to think that some evolution has taken place since 1867. While the Senate as an institution may have been essential to our nationhood, this position can no longer be sustained in argument. The people of Canada are represented here by their elected members of parliament. The electoral process itself has been the object of improvements, particularly in the twenty-ninth parliament when
British North America Act
a far reaching election expenses bill was passed. This will enable Canadians from all walks of life to run for parliament without incurring a crushing financial burden. Nor should the Senate be considered a secure haven for retired politicians.
Members of parliament who have served this country well should be adequately compensated during their tenure and should be entitled, on an equal footing for all, not to the advantage of the ruling party through Senate appointments, to adequate pensions. As for other distinguished Canadians, there are other ways of recognizing their contribution to the development and well-being of our country.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I wish to say that the role of the Senate as a political institution of this country ought to be decided upon in the only manner fully consistent with the existence of parliamentary democracy.
Topic: PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS